Form & Fitness Q & A
Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.
Jon Heidemann (www.peaktopeaktraining.com) is a USAC Elite Certified cycling coach with a BA in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming. The 2001 Masters National Road Champion has competed at the Elite level nationally and internationally for over 14 years. As co-owner of Peak to Peak Training Systems, Jon has helped athletes of all ages earn over 84 podium medals at National & World Championship events during the past 8 years.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions.
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.
Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.
Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Michael Smartt (www.wholeathlete.com) is an Associate Coach with Whole Athlete. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology, is a USA Cycling Level I (Elite) Coach and is certified by the NSCA (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). Michael has more than 10 years competitive experience, primarily on the road, but also in cross and mountain biking. He is currently focused on coaching road cyclists from Jr. to elite levels, but also advises triathletes and Paralympians. Michael is a strong advocate of training with power and has over 5 years experience with the use and analysis of power meters. Michael also spent the 2007 season as the Team Coach for the Value Act Capital Women's Cycling Team.
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.
I've been a fan of your column for quite some time and your advice has paid off regarding everything from cleat position through to solving a difficult knee problem I've had for years. So, thank you. I'm hoping you can give me an insight into 3D Dynamic Bike Fit. I hear CTS are offering it, and I was wondering if you could both elaborate on what it is, how it works, and give me your opinion on it.
Steve Hogg replies:
I don't have any first hand knowledge of CTS' 3D Dynamic Bike Fit. I had a look at their website and know only what it says there.
Basically it is a method of motion capture that a bike fitter can use to analyse what a rider is doing on a bike. In short it is a tool and like all tools, is only as good as the person using it. In this case the bike fitter.
I am a College student studying Exercise Science and have competed in various endurance sports (mostly running and road cycling). As a self proclaimed training geek, and like most racers, I am constantly looking for anything that could make me minutes (or even seconds) faster (LEGALLY OF COURSE...DOPERS SUCK). So my question is this, with all the nutrient possibilities and the many nutrition companies out there, all with their own recovery ideas. SOOO I was wondering, could you simplify and save money by ingesting some food with carbohydrates and a little protein plus a standard multivitamin (directly after workout or otherwise within the glycogen window) to make up for any lost nutrients in you're diet, or those nutrients that have been depleted by you're training? Would this make sense, or is it best to stick with a condensed formula, such as an energy bar or a recovery beverage. Thanks for you're help,
Scott Safier replies:
You are wise beyond your years, or you are an old college student. The preformulated energy and recovery products offer nothing that you can't get from intelligently chosen, "real" foods. That doesn't mean that these products are without value however. First off, if you don't have the knowledge needed to help you make those intelligent choices (a friend of mine thought that cheese was a carbohydrate-rich food, for instance) energy and recovery supplements let you choose well without thinking too muc.
Energy and recovery supplements also provide convenience. If you will race far from home and don't have time to prepare real food, you can always toss a can of recovery powder in your kit bag along with your helmet and shoes. If the other option is driving around after a race looking for food while the glycogen window gradually closes, the supplement products are a far better choice. When you will finish a ride at home however, and if you are good at keeping your fridge and pantry full, I'd suggest eating real food.
I'm 32 year old male. I like cycling at lot and I hope to start racing in the future. I have a problem with leg cramps. Right now I'm only riding once a week. Between 35-40 miles I get cramps. At the end of the ride the average speed is about 17mph, including stops and hills. My bike weight is 21-22 lbs aluminum frame.
I have tried so many endurance drinks including EFS, Nuun, high 5 isotonic, gatorade, Cytomax, gatorade endurance, and Salt sticks. Still, I have cramps. I have run 5 marathons and always feel the cramps after 18 miles (have to run & walk just to finish). I have also checked with my doctor and all my electrolytes are at normal level. They even said I am very healthy. They told me to hydrate days before riding, but it still didn't help. I will experiment on pickle juice this week. Any advice is very much appreciated. Thank you.
Scott Safier replies:
Below you'll find information on cramping in general in healthy cyclists. If none of this applies, you should ask your doctor if he or she has ruled out sarcoidosis. This condition sometimes causes cramping with no other obvious cause.
What is a cramp?
Cramps are strong involuntary muscle contractions. They can occur at any time though they are most common during or shortly after hard exercise. They can occur in any muscle, though in cyclists they are most common in the quads, hamstrings and calves. They can be so strong that they cause you to launch out of a chair or actually pull a muscle.
There are many causes of cramps, though on a fundamental level they are all the same. When you move, your brain sends signals to your muscles requesting a contraction. The central nervous system receives feedback on the strength of the contraction that has occurred, from which it can make fine adjustments so that you can make a controlled movement. If the feedback says that the contraction is harder than expected, the brain can send instructions to contract less. If the feedback says the contraction is weak, the brain can send a signal to contract more. As a muscle fatigues, the brain sends more signals to tell the muscle to contract to get the same strength of contraction. When the muscle becomes too fatigued to do what is asked of it, the brain sends a continuous contraction signal, which initiates a cramp.
Causes of cramps and how to correct them
Anything that fatigues a muscle can bring on a cramp, and anything that keeps a muscle fresh helps prevent cramps. Talk to your coach about which of these might be your particular problem.
Inadequate training: You may cramp towards the end of a long or hard ride simply because you have not trained adequately for the distance or the intensity of your ride. Make gradual increases to volume and intensity.
Pushing a big gear: One clue that you may be doing this is if you find yourself standing each time you need to accelerate. Another clue is measuring your cadence below 85 rpm for much of a hard ride. The cure? Switch to a lower gear. Spin to save your legs. Get a larger rear cog or a triple crankset if necessary.
Dehydration: Muscles don’t contract well if they don’t contain their normal amount of water. Stay hydrated.
Fuel: Muscles can’t contract if they don’t have a good supply of glucose. Keep eating carbohydrate rich foods on longer rides. Eat something at the start of the ride, after about 30-40 minutes and every 15-20 minutes thereafter. Aim for about 300 calories per hour if you are under 150 pounds and 350 if you are over 150 pounds.
Electrolyte balance: Muscles will cramp if they don’t contain their normal amounts of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Those amounts change during exercise. Salt your food and eat plenty of bananas. If you don’t eat a lot of dairy, take a calcium supplement or eat plenty of brassica veggies (collards, kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower). Calcium based antacids such as Tums have cured many cases of cramps. Take one before riding and one each hour of the ride if you have been having cramps. Don’t wait for the cramp to take the calcium. Some green vegetables eaten raw, particularly spinach, will leach calcium from your system. Avoid excessive amounts of raw spinach.
Creatine Monohydrate supplementation: In some people creatine supplementation (especially loading) may cause cramps, especially if the athlete is at all dehydrated. If in doubt, avoid this supplement.
Tight muscles: Regular stretching of muscles that tend to cramp can reduce the cramping.
Impaired circulation: Muscles that are not receiving a good blood supply are deprived of oxygen and fuel. They will not recover from one contraction to the next and so will fatigue quickly. Do what you can to correct pressure points on the saddle, in your shoes, in your shorts and anywhere else they might interfere with circulation.
Heat or cold: On hot or cold days some people will cramp even if they do everything else right. On hot days, do what you can to keep cool. As well as staying hydrated, dribble water on your jersey and shorts and through your helmet every once in a while. Chose shadier and flatter routes on hot days, unless you are racing and don’t have a choice. On cold days, dress warmly.
Bike Fit: A poorly fit bike may cause some muscles to work harder than necessary, bringing on a cramp. If in doubt, have your coach check your fit.
Rhabdomyolysis: If cramps are followed shortly by red or brown urine, you may be experiencing a breakdown of muscle tissue with release of muscle contents into the blood. This is a medical problem that needs immediate professional attention to prevent kidney damage. Treatment for acute rhabdomyolysis is high volume IV rehydration.
My problem is alternating medial knee pain, superior lateral patellar pain, and achilles pain. Which one is the problem depends on setup. All of these pains when they occur are completely symmetric.
I am six-foot 4 180 pounds long legs, relatively inflexible most notable in the quadriceps and hips. I have straight alignment with a slightly varus heel strike with ambulating. If I exaggerate a pedal motion and watch when I get significant knee flex my foot has a varus rock. At smaller ranges of motion this seems non existent or mild.
My original problem was medial knee pain slightly in front of the Anserine bursa. My diagnosis was the varus rock at the top of the pedal rotation. To solve this I placed 2 aligned LeMond wedges with the thick portion medially. The pain instantly resolved. Unfortunately I quickly developed inflammation at my iliotibial band insertion on the lateral knee that persisted with lowering the saddle and widening my cleats.
The LeMond wedges were removed and The ITB pain went away. I raised the seat which seemed to minimize the amount of the problem with getting over the top with out rocking my foot and concentrated on pedaling with my knee held much closer to my top tube. In video photography this appeared to give a very good alignment. Unfortunately I then developed pain at the superior lateral patella where the vastus lateralis inserted.
My next process was to raise the seat slightly further. Try to let my knee go naturally but concentrate on maintaining pressure medially on the pedal through the stroke. My knee angle now at about 27°. Riding in this position for moderate distances caused increased achilles pain. I moved my cleat back 11 mm from my 1st metatarsal head. (My shoe size is a 47). To do this I changed over to speed play pedals and used their extender kit. I re did my set up and had my knee angle 29 to 30 , let my knee go where it wants which on video has an almost unnoticable side to side rock and concentrated on keeping the foot medially weighted.
This seemed to solve the problem for several months until I began increasing the intensity and distance. I redeveloped medial knee pain!!!! This was instantly corrected by holding my knee slightly closer to the top tube. However the same chain reaction occurred with the return of superior lateral patellar pain. If I raise the seat still further to about 26° of the bend the achilles pain is back but knee is better.
I am unsure what my next step should be. Here are some things I have considered. I would like your opinion about these or if you have another option. I am desperate.
1. Place my knee back to a 28 to 30 degree angle. Place one LeMond wedge in each shoe with the thick side medially. Keep my minus 11 mm spindle set up. Recall above I had used 2 LeMond wedges unsuccessfully because of ITB syndrome.
2. Continue to try and ride at a relatively high saddle position but move the cleat back another 8 mm. 19mm total. That's about all I have left in the range from the speed play adapter. Hopefully this would remove further stress from my Achilles. It also allows me to lower my saddle from its current position. At the 26° I seem to still be able to spin on my saddle and have control at the bottom under reasonable load. I'm not sure yet how my hamstrings will handle it in the long run as the Achilles gave out first.
3. Try Arch cleat. Obviously I have a problem somewhere with alignment, flexibility, and my forefoot related to my knee. My understanding from reading is that these may minimize this problem. It will also relieve the problem of my Achilles and calf muscle. My major concern with this is the cost of the shoes as I do not have the mechanical ability to modify shoes.
Steve Hogg replies:
Based on what you have told me, I would suggest reverting to the position that gave you no problem until you increased distance and intensity and try one wedge only. If that isn't successful, please get back to me.
Hi, I'm a 44 year old recreational cyclist who wants to race next year. I just got new KEO pedals and Sidi Genius 6.6 shoes with the carbon sole. The stack height on the 6.6 shoes is 3.2 mm's less than the Genius 5's I was using. The Keo manual suggests that I lower my saddle by 5 mm's to compensate for the difference in thickness of the Keo cleats compared to the Delta cleats. If I go that low, everything feels off. I've moved my cleats back a little to compensate for the lower saddle height (2 mm's lower than previously), so they are behind the ball of each foot and are pretty comfortable now. The problem is, I'm not sure how far to lower my seat considering the two new variables (new shoes and pedals). I've been measuring my saddle height from the center of the pedal spindle to the top of the saddle, and that height has been very comfortable with my old shoes and pedals. Is this the correct way to do it? Now that I've changed shoes and pedals, I've been riding with it set 2 mm's lower than previously. Should I go any lower, or just try it here for a while? Also, should I move my saddle back on the rails any to keep the same previous position, or does 2 mm's make that much difference? Let me know if you need any more information.
Steve Hogg replies:
Place your cleats in whatever fore and aft position and rotational angle that makes you happy. Once done, find a longish climb and ride up it one or two cogs higher (smaller cog) than normal while forcing the pace. Basically as hard as you can push without sacrificing technique.
Do you feel smooth and fluent through the bottom of the pedal stroke?
If the answer is yes, raise your seat a couple of mm and repeat. Repeat until you feel you are just a touch too high and then drop your seat 3 - 4 mm from that point.
If the answer is no, drop your seat a couple of mm at a time while repeating the hill.
When riding up a hill in these conditions, the lower rpm, higher torque efforts cause us all to drop our heels more relative to flat riding technique. This causes greater extension of the legs. A good seat height is one where you can ride up a hill under fairly heavy load while maintaining control of the pedaling action through the bottom of the pedal stroke.